If you've ever been on a Country Walkers trip, you’ve likely felt as though the tour went off without a hitch, with everything running smooth as can be. There’s a reason for this—months of research and development and great planning. And...something called a Prototype Tour.
Long before a new trip is offered to guests, a Country Walkers Tour Manager spends extensive time in the region with the guides who are local to the area—walking every trail, visiting and choosing hotels and restaurants (making choices that showcase the region), and assessing and selecting those special touches—cultural visits, time with local artisans—that make a trip uniquely Country Walkers. And, every Prototype Tour is accompanied by a Country Walkers staff person, further assuring that every detail is attended to. Every aspect of the tour, from the timing of the transfers, route mileage, elevation gain and loss, and walking terrain are assessed and noted.
And even with all of this research, a trip may seem perfect on paper, but in practice, there may still be some ‘tweaking’ needed when the groups’ feet are on the ground. For instance, a road may have been rerouted, making travel time longer than anticipated.
The way we finesse the final particulars is via a Prototype Tour, basically a dress rehearsal of each tour we offer. We typically offer these trips to Encore guests—loyal guests who have traveled with us two or more times. Their observations are particularly important as they are familiar with and accustomed to a great Country Walkers experience. Each trip participant is asked to evaluate every aspect of the trip, so we can fine tune all details prior to rolling it out as a scheduled departure. In return, we offer guests a reduced trip cost and an even smaller group for the tour.
Amy Brusa, a new Tour Consultant at Country Walkers, just returned from the Italy: The Dolomites Prototype Tour. This is a trekkers dream, in the famous mountainous portion of northeast Italy.
"Prototype Tour guests become invested and want to share their opinions about what was perfect and surprising about the tour and what they suggest could be altered,” Amy said. "As past Country Walkers guests they really care about the quality tours we offer."
"This was absolutely an amazing trip!" Amy noted, adding that other guests agreed. "The scenery was breathtaking, the food delicious with plenty of wine, and the Italians gracious. We enjoyed a surprise guitar concert at the hotel Monte Sella and a remarkable, family style meal.”
But being a Prototype Tour, guests were there for the trial run, and to find any adjustments needed. One challenge arose at dinner the first night. Guests waited quite a while before they received their appetizers—definitely not acceptable for a group who spent a full day hiking! The result of this ‘glitch’ was that the guides determined the restaurant wasn't a good fit for Country Walkers and found another restaurant that could offer more timely service (as well as excellent cuisine) for future tours.
Whenever possible we avoid these glitches on tours, so this is why we take the extra and important step of a Prototype Tour. There is so much going on behind the scenes—but it is all made perfect before our guests arrive.
"It was a great experience," said Amy, who is a relatively new member of the Country Walkers team. "As it was my first time in Italy, it was remarkable. There was a lot to learn, and it was amazing to experience the depth of knowledge and know-how the guides bring to the adventure.
Have you ever wondered about our behind-the-scenes research and development? Let us know—we have great tales to tell!